Why GQ Is Wong. The Bible is a Must-Read

GQ recently posted an article titled, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.” It includes many classics such as The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. And it also includes the Bible.

It would be easy to criticize this post. And I will below. But it’s worth pondering some truth in the opening lines of the section on the Bible:

“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.” Ouch. Sadly, there is some truth in this. It is not lost on the wider world that we Christians often fail to read and live by the words of Scripture.

Rather than responding with anger at GQ for including the Bible in this list, our first response should be one of self-reflection: Do we fail to live what we claim to believe? Do we really read and study Scripture? How can the church mature so that claims like this fall on deaf ears? Let’s remove the plank from our own eye first.

Nevertheless, it really is crazy that the editors of GQ (not a guest writer or an op-ed, by the way)—chose the Bible for this list. After all, the Bible is the most influential book ever written. Period.

Even people who don’t believe the Bible is inspired must honestly recognize it has influenced western civilization more than any literary work in history. Let me say it again, to be sure it sinks in: The Bible has shaped western civilization more than any book ever written. No other book even comes close.

Consider a few examples, which my father and I document in Evidence that Demands a Verdict:

  • Government and Law: The Bible has contributed to the development of the democratic process, the three branches of government, and maintaining a system of justice.
  • Science and Education: The Bible was not an obstacle to (as many falsely believe) but was a catalyst for the development of science and the rise of higher education.
  • Art, Literature, and Music: The Bible has been a fundamental source for nearly every genre of art and literature, and has provided inspiration for innumerable visionaries (e.g., Michelangelo, Bach, Rembrandt) who have elevated the artistic endeavor to its highest form.
  • Societal Norms and Values: The Bible has shaped social morality more than any other book. For instance, slavery has existed in nearly every society, yet Christian theology let fervent believers to conclude that slavery was morally reprehensible and therefore required organized action. 

These bullet points are only the beginning. Many of the good things in life we take for granted bear the stamp of the Bible, such as marriage, family, names, hospitals, social agencies, freedom, human rights, the work ethic, self-discipline, and more.

Here is the bottom line: No one can truly be an educated person in the West today (and beyond) without reading the Bible. As great as many of the other books are on GQ’s list, they are arguably dispensable. But not the Bible.

Instead of reading the Bible, GQ suggests people read The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie by Agota Kristof. This may be a great book. I haven’t read it. But I doubt anyone will be talking about it in a short time. But I guarantee people will be reading, discussing and studying the Bible. That will never change.

Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a biblical worldview. Sean is an associate professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. He is the Resident Scholar for Summit California. Sean still teaches one high school Bible class, which helps him have exceptional insight into the prevailing culture so he can impart his observations poignantly to fellow educators, pastors and parents alike. In 2008, he received the Educator of the Year award for San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The Association of Christian Schools International awarded Exemplary Status to his apologetics training. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot School of Theology with a master’s degree in theology and another in philosophy. He earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies in 2014 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities and conferences. He has spoken for organizations including Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Backyard Skeptics, Cru, Youth Specialties, Hume Lake Christian Camps, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean has also appeared as a guest on radio shows such as Family Life Today, Point of View, Stand to Reason, Common Sense Atheism and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Sean has been quoted in many publications, including the New York Times. Sean is the author, co-author or editor of over 18 books including The Fate of the Apostles (Routledge, 2015); A New Kind of Apologist (Harvest House, 2016); The Beauty of Intolerance (Barbour, 2016); Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, with John Stonestreet (Baker, 2014); Is God Just a Human Invention? with Jonathan Morrow; and Understanding Intelligent Design, with William A. Dembski. Sean has also written multiple books with his father, Josh McDowell, including The Unshakable Truth, More Than A Carpenter and an update for Evidence that Demands a Verdict (2017). Sean is the general editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He has also written for YouthWorker Journal, Decision Magazine and the Christian Research Journal. Follow the dialogue with Sean as he blogs regularly at seanmcdowell.org. In April 2000, Sean married his high school sweetheart, Stephanie. They have three children and live in San Juan Capistrano. Sean played college basketball at Biola and was captain his senior year on a team that went 30-7.


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  2. jkinney5@gmail.com
    jkinney5 3 years ago

    It’s worth noting that the section on the Bible was authored by just one person, someone named Agota Kristof. Her first accusation — that lots of people who claim to have read the Bible actually haven’t — is obviously not an argument against reading it yourself. This person is evidently an author, and I wonder if she would apply the same reasoning to her own books? Her other accusations are that it is moralizing (duh — it’s a religious book), contradictory (no examples given, and this issue of course has been addressed over and over), ill-intentioned (because she apparently can ascertain the intentions of ancient authors), and repetitive (so what?). In other words, this person’s opinion is not worth getting worked up about, at all.

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